There is no doubt that Football West’s video clip pushing for a Home of Football has sparked conversation on not only a home for the game, but also the game as a whole. It has also, as one would expect, invoked a great deal of passion in many.
The one thing that it has brought to the fore is that how the game is perceived by many could well be what is holding it back, and may well be why Politicians to date have ignored the pleas to find Football a home in the West.
It was on John O’Connell’s International Football Show on 990am Information Radio soon after he became Chairman of Football West, that former Minister for Sport Bob Kucera declared that during his time in Politics there was no intention to give financial support to the game when it was so fractured. In those days each segment was run independently, Juniors, Amateurs, Women’s leagues and the State League. Which with hindsight, the position taken by the Government then makes sense.
In 2004 Football West was founded and all of the different areas of the game were brought under one roof. Interestingly at the time most welcomed the move, although as time has passed, as is to be expected some feel that their section of the game is not getting enough attention. This was inevitable, and any CEO taking on the task of running the game must be aware that they are never going to be able to keep everybody happy at the same time.
What many other sports administrators and politicians fail to realise is Football gives its players and support staff more opportunities to play internationally and represent their state or country than any other sport in Australia. Apart from the senior representative sides football has women’s sides through all age groups, teams for those with disabilities, if you are blind or deaf, whether you want to play on the beach or indoors (Futsal). Each of these formats of the game gives people the chance to represent Australia and Western Australia. No other sport offers such opportunities. So understandably administering so many areas and keeping everyone happy is no easy task.
So with so much opportunity in the game, why does it still fail to receive the acknowledgement that it deserves? Could it be petty jealousy? That because it offers so many opportunities other sports are envious?
Mr Kucera’s comments are probably closest to giving lovers of the game an insight. For many years football was run, kept alive, and at times held back by the fact that the game was built on immigrants moving to the country and the clubs based on these migrants’ ethnicity. These clubs still exist but they have evolved any who are hoping to survive purely based on their ethnic past, simply will not survive. Times have changed, yet many outside of the game fail to accept this.
Football sadly since the dawn of the FFA, at a time when it should be driving forward in leaps and bounds still manages to shoot itself in the foot. It is under the spotlight more than many other game because other codes are envious of its appeal and its participation rates, and that is why the game has to make sure when it makes decisions it makes the right ones.
Football rightly or wrongly is judged by the game at the elite level, how the Socceroos are performing, how the A-League is going and in Perth how Perth Glory is perceived and doing in the national competition.
The fact that the Hyundai A League, created in 2005, has seen three teams fold in eight seasons is not good for the game; Especially compared to other codes. The way in which some of these clubs have finished their time in the A-League, has definitely not been good for the game. The constant speculation over ownership of clubs and the fact that the game’s governing body has had to step in and help run five clubs does not help the image of the game. The fact that the game’s governing body is actually paying or contributing to the wages of some players at privately run clubs does not help the game’s image.
Closer to home the decline of Perth Glory has undoubtedly rocked Football West’s push for a home for football. What was once the hottest ticket in town is now in a position where it is often hard to give tickets away. The negative publicity that the club has attracted through some of the actions of its owner Tony Sage, will have definitely harmed the image of the game and the willingness of Politicians to be seen to be giving the game money, especially if the A League club is to benefit from such funding by having offices in the new Home of Football.
Here again Football West is in an unenviable position, they are trying to create pathways for their players to win contracts at the highest level in Western Australia with Perth Glory, yet under the current regime their relationship with the A League club could well be something that is holding them back in terms of receiving funding. How best do they serve the game? Creating the pathways for future players, or pulling back in their relationship to gain funding for a Home of Football?
One thing however is obvious, Football has to somehow change the perception people outside of the game have of it. If that goal cannot be achieved then it will be continually having to fight for what by rights it deserves. Sadly slogans such as ‘the Football Family’ are not enough, the game has to educate politicians, and key decision makers that it is bigger and offers more employment worldwide and more international opportunities than any other sport, and make them reach a position where to not back the game would be downright foolish.
It is not going to be easy, as there are some narrow-minded, stubborn and self-serving people out there who are going to be extremely hard to bring around to this way of thinking. However if that can be achieved, and the image and perception of the game changed, then the dream will be realised one day.